Search for keyword

books to read
Books on this subject


Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum:
The History of the Primitive Church of England.
Book One, Chapter Thirty-Two

Translated by Rev. William Hurst, 1814.

Chapter XXXII

St. Gregory sends a letter and presents to King Ethelbert.

The same holy Pope sent also several handsome presents, of different kinds, at the same time to King Ethelbert, thus studying to honour him with temporal honours, whom he rejoiced to have taught to aspire after such as are eternal. The following is a copy of the letter.

To our most excellent son Ethelbert, the sovereign lord and most renowned king of the English: Gregory, Bishop.

" Almighty God raises good men to the government of nations, that by them he may distribute the riches of his mercy and goodness to his chosen people. This is what we know he has done to the English nation by appointing you to govern it, that you might communicate to your people those heavenly blessings, of which you have been made a partaker.

"Wherefore, O illustrious son, preserve with great care the grace which you have received, and sedulously apply yourself to extend the knowledge of the Christian faith amongst your subjects; exert your pious zeal in promoting their conversion, suppress the worship of idols, destroy their temples, and edify your people by the example of all good works; by a great purity of life, by terrifying and punishing the wicked, and encouraging and exhorting the virtuous, that so you may find him your rewarded in heaven, the knowledge of whose name you shall have extended on earth. For he shall transmit your glorious name with still greater lustre and fame to posterity, whose honour you shall have laboured to promote and establish amongst unbelieving nations. Thus formerly did Constantine, a very pious emperor, recall the Roman people from the perverse worship of idols, and subject them with himself to Almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ; and was himself with his subjects entirely converted to him. Whence it followed, that his name transcended that of all former emperors: and he as much excelled his predecessors in renown, as he did in good works.

"Now, therefore, magnanimous Prince, hasten to infuse into the minds of the kings and people, subject to you, the knowledge of one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that you may both surpass all the ancient kings of your nation, in merit and fame, in this life, and appear at the terrible judgment of Almighty God in the next, with so much the greater confidence of obtaining pardon for your own sins, by how much more diligently you shall have laboured to efface those of your subjects.

"Gladly listen to, carefully retain in mind, and devoutly perform, whatsoever shall be taught you, by our most reverend brother Bishop Austin, who has been educated according to the rules of a monastic life, has acquired a complete knowledge of the sacred scriptures, and, by the assistance of God, has performed many good works. For, if you hearken to what he says to you on the part of the Almighty, the same Almighty God will the sooner attend to him, when he shall offer up his prayers to him for you. But if (which God forbid) you should refuse to give ear to his words, how can you expect that the Almighty, who commissioned him to preach his word to you, will hear him in your behalf? Unite, therefore, your efforts with his, and exert that authority which you have received from the Deity, with all the fervour of your heart, that he make you partaker of his kingdom, whose faith you propagate and establish in your kingdom.

"Moreover, we desire you to consider that the end of this present world is near, that the kingdom of the Saints, which will never end, is coming, as we learn from the words of our Almighty Lord, written in the sacred scriptures. Now, we have been taught to expect many extraordinary presages of this great event, viz. changes of the air, terrible signs from heaven, tempests in those seasons of the year when they do not usually happen, wars, famines, plagues, and earthquakes in several places. All these things will not, indeed take place in our days but, if you should experience some of them in your country, let not your mind be disturbed, for all those signs of the end of the world approaching are sent to admonish us to be careful to save our souls, to watch for the hour of death, and prepare ourselves by good works for the coming of the Judge.

"These things have we written to you, illustrious Son, in a few words, purposing to write more copiously hereafter, in proportion as we shall find occasion to congratulate with you on the propagation of the Christian faith in your dominions. We have also sent you a few small presents, which yet will not seem small to you, when you accept of them as from the blessing of St Peter the Apostle. May Almighty God perfect that grace which he has begun in you, and, after prolonging your life for many happy years in this world, admit you to the blessed society of his saints, in his heavenly kingdom. The blessing of God be with you, dear Son. Given this twenty second day of June, the nineteenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord the most pious emperor Mauritius Tiberius, the eighteenth since his consulship; the fourth indiction."

Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum:
The History of the Primitive Church of England.
Book One, Chapter Thirty-Three

Translated by Rev. William Hurst, 1814.

Chapter XXXIII

St. Austin repairs St. Saviour's Church, and builds the Monastery of St. Peter. Of the first Abbot of the name of Peter whom he appointed to govern the said Monastery.

After St. Austin had established his Episcopal See in the royal city of Canterbury, as we have before related, he, by the authority and assistance of the king, recovered a church which had been erected there by some of the ancient Romans, who were Christians, and dedicated it to the holy name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He also appointed a residence for himself and all his successors in the same place: besides which, he built a monastery, not far from the city, on the east side of it. Adjoining to which, by his advice, king Ethelbert erected the church of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and endowed it with various gifts, designing it to be a place of interment for himself and St. Austin, as well as of all the archbishops of Canterbury and kings of Kent: which church, however, was not consecrated by St. Austin, but by his successor St. Laurence. The first abbot of this monastery was a priest by the name of Peter, who, going on a message to Gaul, was shipwrecked and drowned in the bay of Ampleat. His body being afterwards found, by the inhabitants of the town of the same name, on the sea coast, was at first buried in an obscure place: but Almighty God, to show how great was the merit of this his servant, caused a light to appear every night over his grave, till the neighbours, considering that this might have been sent as a demonstration of his sanctity, made diligent enquiry concerning the person who lay buried there, and of what country he had been, and then conveyed away his body, and interred it in a church at Boulogne, with all the honour due to so great a man.

Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum:
The History of the Primitive Church of England.
Book One, Chapter Thirty-Four

Translated by Rev. William Hurst, 1814.

Chapter XXXIV

Ethelfrid, King of Northumberland, having greatly extended his dominion over the Britons, is attacked by the Scots, whom he repels with great loss.

At this period, Ethelfrid, a most valiant and ambitious monarch, reigned over the Northumbrians. He subdued and destroyed more of the British nation than any of the other English princes, so that he might have justly been compared with Saul (formerly king of Israel) in everything else, except the true religion, of which he had no knowledge. For no general or king before him acquired so much territory from the Britons, who he either exterminated or rendered tributary to him on every side. That prophetical saying of the patriarch Jacob, when he blessed his son in the person of Saul, might very appropriately be applied to him. "Benjamin, a ravenous wolf in the morning shall eat the prey, and in the evening divide the spoil." [Gen. chap. xlix. v. 27.]

On this occasion, Edan, king of Scotland, viewing his great prosperity with an envious eye, marched against him with an immensely powerful army, but fled from the field of battle with very few attendants: for almost all his army was destroyed in the memorable place called Degsasten, or Degsa-stone; in which engagement fell Theobald, the brother of Ethelfrid, and all that part of the army which he commanded. This victory, which put an end to the war, was gained by Ethelfrid in the eleventh year of his reign, which lasted twenty-four years; the first year of the reign of Phocas, who then governed the Roman empire, and the six hundred and third of the Christian era. From that time to the present, no king of Scotland has ever dared to invade England.